There are so many different formats for tournament poker. I played in two unique tournament formats recently, one I didn’t much like and one that I really enjoyed.
The first, the one I didn’t like, was the Premier League VI event in London. I had been invited to the Premier League in the past but I had never gone. This was the first time that I actually played.
In this format, there are two groups of eight players. Each group plays four heats that are all basically separate satellites to accumulate points. At the end of the four heats, the top three players on points from each group advance to the final. The 4th and 5th place players in each group play a best-of-three heads-up match for the last two spots in the final. Starting stacks at the final table are dictated by point totals from the preliminary heats.
When I play normal multi-table tournaments, I pretty much just focus on accumulating chips. In the Premier League, focusing solely on accumulating chips isn’t necessarily the best strategy. You’re putting yourself at risk of going broke and not earning any points. It’s a very particular strategy that creates some odd spots. For example, in the last heat, if you were high on the leaderboard in points all you had to do was not bust out first and you’d advance to the final.
I really enjoyed the thought process that the Premier League provoked. I felt like it was very good for my poker mind, puzzling through the “right way” to play the tournament. I called Vanessa Selbst a couple of times to talk about strategy. I spoke with Sam Trickett, Tobias Reinkemeier and Marvin Rettenmaier on set. We spent a lot of time talking about how we should be playing the event better
The actual process of playing, however, didn’t end up being fun – especially since it didn’t really go well for me. I finished in 7th place in my Group and thus didn’t advance to the final. For me, playing optimally in this event forced me to play against my normal style. The format causes you to constantly be thinking of ICM and how you’re supposed to move up in the points and survive, rather than thinking about how to build a big stack.
I was grateful for the invitation and the opportunity to play in the event, and I did enjoy the strategy aspects of it. I felt like I grew as a poker player playing this event. I would more than likely go back and play it again for the challenge.
On the other hand, I very much am a fan of the recent trend toward re-entry events in big buy-in poker tournaments. I’m not sure if I like unlimited re-entry events, but I do like the thought of a second bullet. You can play on Day 1A and then if you bust you can play on Day 1B.
There are only so many live events. It’s not like online poker where there are unlimited tournaments at all times that you can play. Getting a second chance at a big live event is always a nice thing. It helps to smooth out variance a little.
I’m really looking forward to the next few months of play as I’ll be grinding for eleven weeks straight from the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo through the World Series.
Jason Mercier is a member of Team PokerStars Pro